Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Designated Marksman Course October 14-15 2023 Beta Course


This past weekend I taught the “Beta” version of the Designated Marksman course that I’ve developed.  It incorporated the suggestions and changes from the “Alpha” version I taught back in April.  I had one holdover student that took the Alpha course and two newbies.


Day one morning was the lecture part of the course work.  It defines terminology, the purpose of a DM (in my opinion anyway) and the fundamentals of the skill set that I will be working through on the range.   I’ve included an image of the training flyer that summarizes the course and equipment.


After lunch we moved to the 50-yard range and their 22LR training rifles.  You’ll note that everyone in the photo ended up with the Ruger American 22LR as their training rifle – it was not purposeful but kind of interesting.  One fellow brought a conversion kit for his scoped AR, but it simply proved too finicky to use so he used my training rifle.


The goal of this portion of the course is to move the shooter toward shooting 5-round groups on 2 inch targets at 50 yards with a 90% consistency (Accuracy) and a group size averages of 2MOA – or 1-inch sized groups (Precision) .  To get there, I work them through all the fundamentals rifle shooting and simply work our way through all the basics.  As you can see from the three targets the Accuracy was reasonably achieved but work remains on the precision. 


At the end of Day One they all sent 5 rounds through their selected DM rifles to confirm their zero at 50 yards and the day ended.


Day two saw us move out to the 100-yard range beginning with their 22LR trainer rifles.  I believe this step is key.  The goal here for both rifles is that 90% of all their rounds fall within 3-inch targets (Accuracy) and that their group size averages 2MOA – a 2-inch group (Precision).  My reasoning for starting with the 22LR trainer is that it’s more cost effective to build and maintain a shooting skill set with ammunition that costs $.09 per round rather than $2.00+ per round.  If you can’t meet these requirements with a 22LR trainer, you won’t with a larger caliber DM rifle.  The morning was spent working on all the fundamentals that would allow them to meet these requirements.  It’s at this point that folks begin to realize phrases like  . . . “I can shoot ½ MOA all day long” . . . may be a bit of a stretch.  Each target sheet contains 5ea. 3-inch targets.  After around 4 boxes of 22LR – 8 completed target sheets – we chatted about what they had all learned, talked about how to apply that to their DM rifle and broke for lunch. 


After lunch we moved to their individual DM rifles.  We had a .223 scoped AR, a Ruger American in 6.5 Creedmoor (the best overall performer) and a Ruger M77 in .308.  Again, the same shooting standards were held . . . and again the phrase . . . “I can shoot ½ MOA all day long” . . . took a bit of a beating.  All shooters ended the day with work remaining to be done but with a solid training approach of how to get there using a training rifle and their primary rifle.


We had a final debrief and the day ended.  As is often said, shooting is a perishable skill.  It is certainly true with rifle shooting that needs to be both Accurate and Precise.  They all seemed happy with the process that was taught, the elements of the skillset and the dual approach of a training and primary rifle.  “A fine time was had by all!”


This was the end of the primary testing of the course, I will bring it live in the Spring of 2024.  If you’re interested, drop me a PM.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Range Trip 7-4-2023


4th of July 2023 . . . what better way to start the day than with a range trip.  Susie and the granddaughter – Lucy – are off to horse camp so I was left to my own devices this morning.  The destination was a pretty easy choice.


I took the Ruger American 22LR and a couple of boxes of Eley Club to the 50-yard range.  I’ve been playing with the front bag a bit and am growing fond of Armageddon Gear’s “Game Changer” bag.  I’ve had it a number of years, but this is the first time I’ve worked my way through the front bags is a systematic fashion.  You can see I have it strapped over my bipod and barrel resting on a bench rest.  Also using a small rear bag as well.  I was pretty darn happy with the results. 


After the “Zero Target” I sent 95 rounds down range on 19 different 2-inch targets.  I dropped 7 rounds (meaning they fell outside of the 2-inch targets for a Accuracy Score of 92.6%.  And the average group size was 1.65 MOA.  Both are well within my goals of 90% and 2 MOA respectively.


I’ve also taken to plotting my average “hold point” for each of the 5 round engagements.  I used RangeBuddy to size and evaluate that as well.  I was down zero with a average group size of 2.03 MOA.  I use this to see how consistent my Point of Aim is.  This is a new parameter I’ve been tracking; we’ll see over time if there’s any real value in it.


So there ya go, a fine time was had – both at the range and at horse camp!


Enjoy your 4th folks.  Our forefathers risked everything to give us the chance to enjoy a day like today.  Let’s do our best not to screw it up.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Range Trip 6-23-2023

 I returned to the range the day following the 6/21 trip because I was unhappy with the performance of the Frontier 75gr ammunition.  My purpose was to see if PMC X-TAC 55 would work better.  I get to the range, post a target, set up my rifle and send one round at the “zero target”.  Low . . . so I reach for the elevation turret to adjust . . . and the scope “wiggled”.  Excuse me????  So, I grab the scope and try to move it around – and I can do this easily.  Closer examination showed that the scope was firmly attached to the rail . . . but the rail was NOT firmly attached to the rifle.  Heavy sigh.  As all good instructors claim – “Why I been shootin’ guns since I was a little kid!!!”  Well, I have been – got my first scoped .22 when I was 12.  Used all types of rifles in the ensuing 61 years.  And I have NEVER seen a rail on a rifle lose.  So, retrieved my target, packed my gear, and headed to the office.

 I disconnected the scope rings from the rail and removed the rail mounting screws.  I applied a bit of Blue Loctite to each screw and then tightened them to the recommended 15 inch-pounds of torque.  I tightened the 4 crews back, front, 2nd back and 2nd front.  Then I ran through the sequence one more time and remounted the scope rings to the rail and tightened them to 15 inch-pounds as well.    I let things set overnight and then headed to the range the next day.

 The course of fire today was to be 5 rounds per target, 20 targets, 5 targets per sheet with the first to confirm zero.  My goal was all rounds within the 3” targets and a group size average of 2MOA.  I posted one sheet with 5 targets at a time then changed out the sheet and evaluated the target I removed. 

 Sheet #1 I dropped 3 rounds and had an average group size of 2.14 MOA.


Sheet #2 I dropped 2 rounds and had an average group size of 2.17 MOA.



Sheet #3 I dropped 5 rounds and had an average group size of 2.3 MOA. 4 of the dropped rounds happened on Target #4 of the sheet.  No idea what happened but I regained my focus for the next sheet.  It was obviously a shooter issue and not a rifle or ammunition issue.



Sheet #4 I dropped 2 rounds and had an average group size of 2.18 MOA.  I also had by best target of the trip – and the last target of the day.  My 5-round group size was .74 MOA.  It was a very nice way to end the range trip.



As you can see from the photo of the rifle and targets, I was using an Armageddon Gear “Game Changer” front bag and a regular rear squeeze bag.  It provided a very stable shooting platform.

 Moving forward I will probably reduce my round count to 50 rounds per trip with the 5.56 ammo with one trip per month.  I’ll probably run the same with the Savage 110 .308 that I chose as my DM rifle.  The high-volume work will continue to be done with the Ruger American 22LR or the Ruger Precision 22LR to maintain the fundamental skill set. 

 It was a good range trip today.  I was reasonably happy with by final result  - an 87.4% on accuracy and an average group  size of 2.2 MOA on precision.  A fine time was had by all!


Thursday, June 22, 2023


6-21-2023 Range Day


The range trip today involved the “intermediate” rifle in my course development for a Designated Marksman Course – the Ruger American Predator in .223.  I don’t consider a .223 large enough to fill a DM role, but it works fine to introduce the concept of recoil mitigation since the .22LR trainers simply have no recoil.  That said, when you move to this platform the goals of precision and accuracy remain . . . 2MOA regardless of the distance and all rounds within a 2” circle at 50 yards and a 3” circle at 100 yards.


At 50 yards I reduced the round count to 3-rounds per target and fired a total of 60 rounds.  I dropped 1 round for an average accuracy of 98.3%.  And I had an average group size for 20ea 3-round groups of 1.67 MOA.  Well within my desired accuracy of 90% and my average group size of 2MOA.


Just a side note, I was shooting Frontier 75gr Hornady BTHP Match bullets.  A characteristic I’ve noted in the past carried through to this session, I had 2 Failure to Fire malfunctions for the 60 rounds.  Honestly, with today’s ammunition, this is unusual.  These were the last few boxes of my stock and I’ve moved on to PMC X-TAC as a replacement.


Moving out to 100 yards, things did open up.  Sheet #1, Target #1 was to check zero so not counted in my average.  For 45 rounds, my average group size opened to 2.26 MOA.  However, my dropped shots increased to 6 out of 45 for an average of 86.6%.  So, I was “out of spec” for both precision and accuracy.  Heavy sigh.  I’m going to go back today and shoot the 100-Yards with the PMC X-TAC and see if things snug up.


Regardless, a fine time was had despite it being pretty darn hot in the low 90s.  Keep shooting, take the time to do some self-evaluation and then fix all the little things that keep you from being the shooter you want to be!

Friday, June 2, 2023


Range Trip 6-1-2023

First trip this year with the Ruger American 22LR.  I was very pleased with the results.  I fired a total of 100 rounds on 20 separate 2” targets, 5 rounds per target.  My goals for the trip were an average group size of 2MOA or 1.0-inches and all rounds with the 2-inch target. 

My smallest group was .42-inches.  My largest was 1.3-inches.  The average group size for all 20 groups was .85-inches. 

My first shot – a Clean Bore/Cold Bore shot was outside of the target (#1 on Sheet #1) as well as one additional round on #10 on Sheet #1.  Otherwise, all rounds were within that target.  This yielded a 98% for 100 Rounds, so pretty happy here.

The ammo was Eley Club (Lot # 3122-30072).  This particular round continues to perform well within my desired specifications, so I’ll probably continue to use it.

As could be expected, I did a “deep clean” before the trip considering the use this firearm took last year.  I suspect that had something to do with tightening things up as well.  I’ll make sure it has a deep clean before each range trip this year and see if it holds.

As I explained last year, this is a “trainer” for a Designated Marksman course I teach.  The actual DM rifle is a Savage 110 in .308.  It’s a very good match in physical size to the Ruger America 22LR and both have the Vortex Scout 2-7 LPVO mounted to them with the triggers set to 2.5 LBS. 

Next range trip will push things out to 100-Yards.  The goal again is groups of 2MOA or less but the target changes to a 3-inch target.  We’ll get that done this week.

Friday, May 26, 2023


Range Trip – May 25, 2023


There are a number of reasons to go to the range.  Here are the common ones.

 Training:  This is participating is a structured set of course work.  Typical examples would be various NRA courses, Rob Pincus courses, Tom Givens, Gun Site, various local instructors, our coursework developed by NAPSI – to name just a few.  These can run from a 4-hour safety course to a 3-day+ in-depth course on an AR, a shotgun or a pistol.  Round counts can vary from a hundred or so to 1,000+.

In these courses you are typically learning a new skillset or perhaps just doing a refresher from a new instructor.  Bottom line – you’re learning something new.

Practice:  Shooting skills – be it with rifles, pistols or shotguns – are perishable.  Left unused your ability to perform with the firearm diminishes.  Rapidly.  My typical rule-of-thumb is that for every firearm you wish to maintain a proficient level of skill – you need to send 1,000 rounds downrange.  Have a carry gun you carry every day?  1,000 rounds to maintain proficiency.  Have a defensive AR you rely on for home defense?  1,000 rounds to maintain proficiency.  Have a home defense shotgun?   1,000 rounds to maintain proficiency.  If you set up a schedule for 100 rounds per month for each platform, it becomes much more manageable to think about and to accomplish.  With a half day at the range each month, you can easily work your way through a maintenance set of drills.

 Zeroing my Rifle:  Man, I hear this one a lot.  “Why you here today?”  “Gonna zero my rifle!”  Ah.  Honestly the last time I zeroed my AR – both optic and iron sights – was probably over 5 years ago.  If your AR or rifle is not holding it’s zero – something is wrong with the scope.  Or, most likely, the way you mounted it.  Once it’s zeroed, short of being dropped, you’re zero should hold.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t check your zero – I do that every range trip.  But adjusting it – nope, should not need to.

 There are exceptions to this.  Should you be shooting precision rifle and you move to a new ammunition lot number – yeah, some tweaking may be needed.  But TWEAKING .  . . not major changes.

 Checking my Proficiency:  Am I maintaining my skill set?  That was the purpose of my range trip on 5/25/2023 and I worked with two firearms.  The first was my “Patrol Rifle”.  I carry this in a vault in my Jeep with two 28 round magazines.  I also grabbed a couple extra boxes as well.  MY second was my carry Glock 17 and I had a box of 50 rounds.  To declare myself “proficient” a minimum score of 80% is required. 

 Let cover the rifle first, they I’ll do the same with the G17.

 The target I shot was LATargets SEB target.  This is THE TARGET I use for all my coursework and Practice.  In this case I added two “splash” targets in the lower left and lower right target.  I bagged my rifle at 50 yards and shot 5 rounds on the left splash target to check the zero on my Vortex Strikefire II and I shot 5 rounds on the right Splash target to check the zero on my Magpul pop-up backup sights.  At 50 yards the Dot in the Strikefire completely covered the target.  It is co-witnessed with my iron sights with the dot resting just on top of the front blade with I look through the irons.  The results were acceptable in both cases so I continued on.  Note, the engagement distance of the AR Rifle is 10 yards or 30 feet.  This is a typical engagement distance equivalent to the width of your home, the length of a hallway, twice the length of your car – just to get some idea of the distance I was working with.  Another thing to keep in mind is that for a standard 55gr bullet, at that distance the POI is just under 2-inches low.  I have my rifle zeroed for 50 yards.


Drill 1 – Mount-touch-press (5 rounds)  This is shot on the “1” circle.  The process is that on the beeper you “Mount” the rifle from low ready and establish your aim point, you “Touch” the trigger and the “Press” the trigger smoothly to the rear then perform your follow through and return to the low ready.  You repeat this a total of 5 times.

 Drill 2 – Single Round Engagement on the “2” circle (5 rounds).  The process is that on the beeper you execute a single round engagement on the “2” circle with follow through and then return to the low ready.  You repeat this 5 times.  You do this and all follow-on drills “at speed” with a goal of less that 3 seconds for the first round.

 Drill 3 – Single Round Engagement in the “Head” (5 rounds).  The process is that on the beeper you execute a single round engagement on the “Head” with follow through and then return to the low ready.  You repeat this 5 times.  You do this and all follow-on drills “at speed” with a goal of less that 3 seconds for the first round.

 Drill 4 – “Hammer” on the “4” box (10 rounds).  This is a 2-round engagement on the “4” box.  You do this 5 times with follow through.

 Drill 5 – “Hammer” on the High-Center-Mass box (10 rounds).  This is a 2-round engagement on the “4” box.  You do this 5 times with follow through.

 Drill 6 – “Failure Drill” on the High-Center-Mass box and “Head” (15 rounds).  Two rounds HCM and One round on the “Head”.  You do this 5 times with follow through.

 The total round count for zeroing and shooting the drills is 60 rounds or 3 boxes of ammunition.  That’s a fairly efficient use of your ammo while gaining solid information on how your proficiency is.  I shot my two 28-round magazines so I actually sent an extra 6 rounds down range.  I had 7 misses for a 49 out of 56 or a 87.5%m well within my desired goal of 80%.


The IDPA target for the G17 came about because I did not have a 2nd SEB target in the Jeep.  So, I slapped a Splash target in the upper left and made due with what I had.  All rounds are shot from 7 yards.

DTP Target – Drive Touch Press on the Splash target – 10 rounds.  These were unscored and just used to check out the pistol and the sights.  You start at High-Compressed-Ready.  You Drive the front blade to the target, get the sight alignment and sight picture you want, touch the trigger and then smoothly press the trigger to the rear.   This is a warmup for the rest of the target.

 Drill 1 – Single Round Engagement on the center circle.  10 Rounds.  On the beep you draw from concealment and send a single round with follow through and scan.  The goal is 2 seconds to the round, for the entire drill set I average just under 2.5 seconds for the first-round engagement.

 Drill 2 – “Hammer” 5 ea on the beep (10 rounds).  On the beep you draw from concealment and engage the center circle with two rounds as quickly as you can.

 Drill 3 – Single Round Engagement on the Head Box (5 rounds).  On the beep you draw from concealment and engage the Head Box with a single round.

 Drill 4 – Failure Drill (15 rounds).  On the beep you draw from concealment and send 2 rounds to the center circle and a single round to the Head Box.


That is a total round count for all 4 drills of 40 rounds.  I dropped 3 for a 37/40 or a 92%.  More than happy with that. 

 Counting the DTP target’s 10 rounds and the 40 rounds for the 4 Drills, this is a single box of ammunition and provides a good indication of where you are as a shooter.

 The raw reality of Training is that it’s pricey – yet you need to learn a solid set of skills from a trained shooter.  Please, pick a course and go.  You will be surprised at how much  you learn regardless of your current skill set.

 You also need to practice.  If you took a basic course a few years ago and have not been to the range since, please – get to the range.  If you can’t reliable use you defensive firearm – should a bad guy show up, it will not end the way you expect it to.  Remember, 1,000 rounds per year or around 100 per month.

 Finally, use these drills to evaluate yourself.  Be honest with yourself.  Find your week spots and fix them.  We do not get to pick the time or place.  Please, do the work and be ready.